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Parent Issue
Day
9
Month
August
Year
1974
OCR Text

Stevie Wonder, rulfilliniiness First Finale, Tam!aT633251. Composer-arranger-producer-singer-multi-instrumentalist Stevie Wonder Kas reached again into his bottomless storehouse of talent and soul to give us another almost single-handed piece of warmth and music. Somehow, everything Stevie does be-; speaks a sincerity and directness that is unquestionable. It is not merely another slicked down, overproduced package from the Motown Factory. Stevie Wonder's albums are works of love, and he is undoubtedly in control from start to finish. If you have ever had the luck to hear him in person you know that there is nothing more important to him than his audience. Happily so, Stevie cares just as much about his recorded material. The lat est offering, Fulfillingness' First Finale, is a little uneven in quality compared to his last two albums, Talking Book and Innervisions. These are, admittedly, pretty tough standards for anybody's albums to live up to. Talking Book was a lyrical masterpiece with Stevie's "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" heading up a collection of sturdy, melodically flowing tunes. Stevie followed with the thoughtful and challenging Innervisions, an album that leaned towards social and political themes including the powerfully moving "Living For the City." Finally: to the issue at hand. This album, like its almost unpronounceable title, is a little too wordy. Stevie's concern shifts on this album from the music to the content. My criticism of this tendency is a nostalgie preference only. Just as I would have rather heard Miles when he crammed the bars of his tunes with extralogical, fluid melodies, so would 1 prefer the electrifying excitement of "Fingertips'" to the metaphysical musings of "Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away", one of the tunes off his new album. Releasing my tenuous grasp on the old Stevie Wonder to deal with the "new", I must admit that despite its lack of that crackling, patented Motown Sound, this music is informed with the same directness of feeling and soulfui expression that the old stutf achieved. The textures are different, to be sure. Instead of driving bass lines and jumping hom sections,Stevie uses synthesizers, congas, and even a steel guitar manned by Nashville's Sneaky Pete. Listen to the mellow and melancholy "They Won't Go When I Go" and the tasteful use of synthesizers in an age when most musicians use it effects merely to sound modern. Another one of Stevie's manifold talents is his arranging of background vocals, an ever-present and hypnotic companion to all of the tunes here assembled. On this album the re are some surprise guests doing a few tracks for Stevie, including the Persuasions, the Jackson 5, and Paul Anka. Yes, Paul Anka. There is also an excellent ensemble of creamy-throated female vocalists who add a dash of sassiness or sensuality, as per Stevie's needs. Stevie Wonder's own singing is, as usual, soul ful, controlled and wholly in vol ved in the songs that he has so pain-stakingly composed. Check the one really jumpin' tune on the album - "Boogie On Reggae Woman" -- to hear him at his steaming best. Even in his most meditative songs you can still find that old Detroit rawness of expression common to those artists under the Motown wing. Stevie's musical control is matched by his technical precisiĆ³n in the studio. Most of the tunes are layer upon layer of separate tracks united by some masterful recording and mixing. This procedure, though obtrusive, is unavoidable since Stevie plays two different keyboards, drums, harmonica, and also sings on some cuts. His use of the studio's shortcuts are logical and never overdone. They are tight and polished, but you couldn't rightly cali them slick. This album seems directed by a spirit of willingness on the part of Stevie Wonder to be honest and straightforward with an audience that frankly expects no less from such an expansive spirit and a great musician. If you have any idea who Stevie Wonder is and you also like that idea, you will most certainly not be let down by his latest creation.